Friday, September 14, 2007

Pittstown Point, Crooked Island, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: E-SE 10-15 knots

We went back to Pokyman’s last night for barracuda numero dos, but Poky, the suave businessman, held the barracuda in reserve and fed us conch instead. It was equally good, but Nappy was disappointed. He’s allergic to shellfish, a rather horrid condition for a Bahamian. He got a couple of little fish, but I think he was hoping for a couple more hunks of barry flesh. It probably was a bad idea for us to stay out until all hours again last night. Our work ethic is suffering.

Still, the conch was delicious. I don’t know how the Bahamians do it. We ate conch on the boat for the first time in a long time on Monday, given to us by some neighbors, the Dykes, and despite all of Karl’s pounding with the ball-peen hammer, we can’t get it nearly as tender as the Bahamians do. They cooked it over the fire in little aluminum foil packets, with cubed potatoes, onion, and habanero peppers, and the conch melted in my mouth. When we cook it, it’s tough and gristly. The secret is one Bahamians don’t part with willingly. We’ve heard various tips on that, too, but last night, I got the most concrete answer yet. They say you need to take it out of the shell, clean it, and pound it immediately. They also said they use onions as a tenderizer, but I don’t know how that works. Do you take sliced onions out on the boat with you? Or do you just cook it with onion?

I’m feeling the boat-house tension again today, though. We’re like a ping-pong ball--boat, house, boat, house, boat, house--and it’s exhausting. I’m never completely at ease at the house, but I’m still drawn inexorably towards its luxury, diametrically opposed to the boat. There’s no reason for me to go over with Karl when he leaves, first thing every morning. I just get in the way over there. But the temptation of ice cubes and plumbing is nearly irresistable. We get back to the boat long after dark, with just enough time to drop into our berths, the rolling of the boat knocking things around in the main cabin and keeping us awake. Each morning I way wake up to confront the near-insurmountable obstacle of my procrastinated boat tasks and I’d rather just run away.

I received an email recently from a good friend that said, “you're going to have to move Secret to sheltered water which is accessible to a road. There must be shoreline with that combination.” It’s obviously the ideal solution, the only solution to our current dilemma. The problem? It doesn’t exist. I’ve pored over the charts multiple times. There are only three anchorages charted for Crooked. One is where we are, the second is off this same beach, closer to Landrail Point. The third is off French Wells, seven miles from the nearest road.

Do you want to do the experiment? Be my guest. If you’re a nautical sort, get out your charts, and take a gander at Crooked Island. If you’re a landlubber, whip out your trusty Google Earth, which I’m sure everyone has been using to plot our coordinates. (You can, you know, or so I’ve heard. Just type them in: 22°49.46’N 074°20.82’W. You might even see us, if the satellite’s gone over recently.)

The north coast is uncharted, completely closed off by reef that extends out up to a mile and a half. That’s where everyone gets their lobster and conch. We’ve had offers of using moorings up there, and heard assertions that it has five feet of depth, but I am beyond skeptical. It wouldn’t be worth holing our boat up there on the nebulous advice of people who’ve never used anything except a Boston Whaler. Besides, there’s no protection from the east, the direction of the prevailing wind. The west coast is where we’re anchored, at the mercy of the current, with no protection from reef. I’ve even thought, recently, about moving south to the anchorage closer to Landrail, where there is some reef, in the hope that we’d get more protection. But as far as we can tell using our binoculars, they get as much swell as we do down there, and we’d have to up our very firmly set three-anchor arrangement, negotiate our way among coral heads, and probably end up with worse holding ground. All to end up farther away from the house for uncertain benefits. The last choice is the southern end of the island, French Wells. There the island disappears among salt flats, swamp, and mangroves, for the safest anchorage around. And there? No roads. There’s not even real land to build roads on. It’s barely land, for seven miles, a stretch called Turtle Sound.

The ideal solution doesn’t exist. The way the island is built, exactly the reason for the houses being built where they are and for us having work here, precludes the possibility. So what do we do? Abandon the Napster? Go back to Georgetown? Move to French Wells and pay someone to ferry us? I’ve begun poking around for a 10HP outboard, about what we’d need to feel confident negotiating seven miles of coast daily. In some ways, I believe that’s the only solution, but I don’t think we can find a good outboard here. If we could, it’d be three times the asking price elsewhere.

No. We just have to put up with the rocking and rolling for the duration. My new think-positive program, an attempt to self-medicatewith cognitive behavioral therapy, tells myself that we are being rocked to sleep in Jesus’ hand. Maybe that will work.

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